I awoke in a dizzied blur, aware of nothing but searing pain and a tube lodged awkwardly down my throat. Unable to speak, tears burned my cheeks, as I played a sadistic game of charades with the nurse keeping guard over me. “What do you want, honey?” Her voice was saccharine. I gestured toward the tube. She replied, “I’m sorry, but I can’t take it out. It’s helping you breathe.” My eyes released a flood. At that moment, I didn’t give a rip about breathing; I only wanted the pain to stop…anyway possible.
Life coaches will remind their clients, to “stay present”. I truthfully had never really thought about or experienced that level of consciousness, until this point in time. I was definitely fully present, in this moment; and believe me, there was nothing I wouldn’t give to be a million miles away from here, soaking in the euphoric drip of morphine. Instead, the recently stitched up tear in my esophagus was made irate by a ribbed piece of plastic parked haphazardly on the fresh wound.
Only a week earlier, my orthopedic surgeon had made an egregious mistake while performing a double-level cervical fusion on my spine. At some point during the surgery, his scalpel slipped, tearing a large hole in my esophagus. This wasn’t realized until a week later, when I appeared miserably in the ER, with green, gravy-like pus oozing from my suture site.
I was filled with infection and a gaping hole in my throat when they rushed me into surgery to try their hardest to remedy the mistake. This traumatic event turned into a six month process of hard-core antibiotics, being fed through a tube in my chest, restless nights terrorized by nightmares of dying, and at last…recovery.
I’m not so sure, whether staying present was a positive in this case. In moments where I focused on my present circumstances, fear eroded my mind. Yet, when I was able to step outside of that pain and focus on a future where this one traumatic event was given a positive purpose, then I began to thrive.
I know everyone has trauma in his or her life. But perhaps it is in that pain, our stories can be shared, honestly, without playing emotional-charades. In this place of vulnerability, we feel understood, and genuine human connection can occur. This is where beauty and true art emerge.